I need some advice: When you feel overwhelmed do you completely shut down? How do you handle stress?
by Kay Marner
My whole identity has changed since I morphed into the mother of a child with ADHD. Just listen to how I describe myself—“Kay Marner is the chronically overwhelmed mother of two….” I’ve lived with ADHD-incited chaos for so long that it’s become part of my persona. I haven’t always been this way!
All mothers perform a juggling act: we manage work, parenting, our children’s activities, being a spouse, housekeeping, caring for aging parents—the list goes on and on. Throw in a child with special needs, and we deserve not just a pat on the back, but a free 90-minute, full-body massage complete with aromatherapy and hot stone therapy.
I’m thankful to have a couple of advantages many women don’t. First, I have a supportive spouse. Second, I work part time rather than full time, in a salaried position that pays just enough to balance between the job’s pros (paid vacation and sick time, IPERS) and the job’s cons (being required to work one evening per week and internal issues that I’m smart enough to keep my mouth shut about in this blog).
When I’m overwhelmed, my mind’s natural defense is to freeze up. To ignore; avoid; put off. That response has become so familiar that it feels like the norm, it’s no longer a response to the occasional acute crisis.
So, it felt so weird (good weird) when, two weeks ago today, I made a life-changing decision. I decided to quit my job. Those internal issues (that I’m too smart to blog about) had irrevocably shifted the balance. The job was no longer worth either the emotional investment or the money.
With this decision made, and my spouse in complete agreement, something inside me thawed. Suddenly, I had the energy to clean up the house. Why had it seemed so impossible, I wondered? I took care of some paperwork I’d been avoiding for months. I scheduled some appointments that were long overdue. I paid some bills. I sorted some piles.
My decision to resign held firm for a solid week. Then, sometime during the night before the morning that I was going to give notice, I changed my mind. I couldn’t do it. For now, at least.
But so far, even as the Iowa winter approaches, my internal thaw continues. The feeling of being too overwhelmed to act hasn’t returned.
Okay, women, here’s your cue to tell me I’m not crazy! Please respond, or I will never share anything this intimate again! Do you react to feeling overwhelmed by shutting down and avoiding taking the very action that could make you feel better? What helps you thaw when you are frozen into inaction?